At the pull-off, I fold a ten by ten plastic sheet in quarters, pile a weather-beaten tent, a front bumper, two broken pails, three tires, and a dozen blue trash bags on top. Then shove empty bags in my pockets, work south to meet a crew that started at the town line. Glass twinkles at the bottom of a slope, so I clamber over the guardrail, stop, bend side to side to loosen my sore back, start downhill. My arthritic hip locks up, throws me into wild rose. I thrash my way through it, grab a sandwich wrapper, discover the thorns tore a hole in my bag, thrust it into a new one. I grab the lost rubbish, a vodka bottle, two hard cider cans. Hesitate to wipe my itchy cheek, and smudge blood across my glove; I tell myself to ignore it. My eyes catch sight of white. I step toward it, shift my focus from trash to a clump of bloodroot blossoms. A groan slips out as my body straightens. Flowers surround me, purple and painted trillium, trout lilies, coltsfoots. Headed back up the hill, I pass a hobblebush in full bloom, a chokecherry about to open. All this color reminds me why I do this every year.
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